Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Michigan Accent

After much serious analysis of the Yooper dialect in the past, I thought it would be fun to take a humorous look at what considers to be the Michigan accent.

"aeh Narbor": Ann Arbor. Home of the Michigan Wolverines.
"Ashfault": Asphalt.
"Bob-lo": Bois Blanc. The name shared by several Michigan islands (and a former amusement park).
"Char-LOTT": Charlotte, a Michigan village close to Lansing.
Related: Durand, MI, pronounced "DUrand", Saline, pronounced "SuhLEEN", its neighbor "MYlun" (spelled Milan), and of course, Lake Orion, pronounced "OReeyun."
"COMF-terbul": Comfortable.
"Cranz": Crayons.
"Crick": Creek, in some parts of the state, they say "crick".
"Davenport": Sofa.
"Deerburn": Dearborn, home of Ford Moder Company.
"Di'TROI'": Detroit. You can always tell a non-native because they'll say "DEEtroit". "Drownded": Drowned. "
Related: "drownding".
"EeeevsTraaaf": Eavestrough.
"FI-yerr": Fire. Say it in two full syllables.
"FREVer": Forever.
"Frigerraider": Refrigerator.
"Graage": Garage. Ahhh, shuddup an' go parrk yer cahrr in the friggin' graage. (another one from Tim)
"Gran Blank": Grand Blanc, a suburb of Flint.
"Grrarapids": Grand Rapids
"GROSHries": Groceries.
"Haahkee": Hockey.
"Hunnerd": Hundred. Alternate pronunciation: "hundrid".
"I-munna": I'm going to.
"Kiddycorner": Kitty-corner. Elsewhere in the US: "catty-corner".
"KI-nuh": Kind of. I dunno, I kinuh like Vernor's.
"LayKEERie": Lake Erie.
"Lie-berry": Library.
"liVONEya": Livonia. Perhaps the fladdes' ciddy in Michigin.
"Melk": Milk.
"Michiganderr": Michigan native.
"Muskeeda": Mosquito. The State Bird of Michigan.
"NAWzeeus": Nauseous.
"Night-meer": Nightmare.
"Er": Or. Ya know, it wuz like watchin' X-Files er somethin'.
"Pah-neeack": Pontiac.
"Pahp": Pop. "Soda", in other parts of the world.
"Pellow": Pillow.
"Port Urine": Port Huron.
"Pronounce-eation": Pronunciation.
"Reeelatur": Realtor. This one sent in by Joe in KalamazOOOOOO.
"Samwich": Sandwich.
"Sherbert": Sherbet. Is this unique to Michigan? Another one from Kalamazoo Joe.
"Stold": Stole. "
"Sump'n": Something.
"Tempachur": Temperature.
"Tuh": To. It's hardta get inta the habita sayin' teeeoooo.
"Terr": Tour.
"U-sta": Used to. My deead u-sta work at th' Tek-Cenner in Warn. (submitted by Hari)
"Vanella": Vanilla.
"WEEK-en": Weekend. "
"Winzerr": Windsor, Ontario.


John from Detroit said...

Whoa. I'm a lifelong Michigander and while I agree with a few of these, I have no idea where you've come up with some of them.

-"Crick" for creek? No way. Maybe in Pennsylvania.

-Dearborn is pronounced exactly how it's spelled. The second syllable is "born," not "burn."

-Detroit is dee-TROYT. The final "t" is not silent.

-"Drownded?" I've never heard anyone say this.

-Fire is pronounced like "fuh-yer," with a definite diphthong.

-"Melk" - there are few people who say this, but nowhere near a majority. And I've never heard "pellow."

-"Muskeeda"? In Michigan? Maybe in the South.

-Port Huron is pronounced the way it's spelled. A New Yorker might not pronounce the "h," but we certainly do - and the final syllable is usually pronounced "on."

-"Stold." Never heard this.

-"Terr." I've never heard this, and can't even picture someone saying it.

Also, while you are correct about the local pronunciation of Charlotte, that's only how city residents pronounce it - people everywhere else in the state assume it's pronounced the usual way. (I only recently discovered what the local pronunciation was, and only because I met someone from there.)

Wordacious said...

Hi John from Detroit,

While you may not be familiar with all of these pronunciations, I have travelled extensively in Michigan and have heard the majority of the pronunciations that are listed on Additionally, a dear friend and neighbor of mine was born and raised in Port Huron and when he speaks of his hometown it rolls off of his tongue as one word with the 'H' dropped like "PortUrine" so I can understand why lists the pronunciation as "Port Urine".

Ron said...

I'm from the Smith's Creek area and we do say "crick".

Ron said...

And I've got family that stills says "drownded" and come to think of it, I've heard a lot of these. I still get hassled for saying "Porchuron" for Port Huron.

Wordacious said...

Ron - Thanks for sharing your pronunciations

Anonymous said...

I'm from just outside of Detroit and I agree with almost everything on this list! What a funny way we Michiganders talk! What I've noticed more so, though, is that we leave out a lot more of the 't' sounds if they're in the middle or end of a word.

Matt said...

While I agree with John to the point that a lot of these aren't all that common, I think you are spot on with most of them.

As a native of Dearborn, it is pronounced both ways, though only people over 65 or so pronounce it "Dearburn", but I have no idea why.

Anonymous said...

haha i'm from Michigan, below the thumb in a town called white lake and i have the hardest time with temperature because i always pronounce it tempeture but i guess thats not how its spelled. And I don't know if this is legit but I read somewhere that people from Michigan kind of made up doorwall but I thought that was a common phrase. Someone not from Michigan do you say doorwall? Oh and i pronounce Detroit Datroit.

ciarlgh said...

I'm from Romulus, MI. I've had friends who have said stold, pellow and a whole bunch down the list also, i don't live in charlotte and i pronounce charLOTT

cfbookchick said...

I am from the Grand Rapids area and we have cricks. We also hurry through as many words as we can, cutting off the endings, not enunciating and we pronounce it phonetically: Duhtroih (with the glottal stop at the end).

Expressions by Heather said...

Born & raised near GR.

I always said Crick- we had a crick right down the road that played in.

Never did the D thing- stold was just bad english where I was raised, not bad accent, as was Drownded. Now, I do say Drownding.

I also don't do Ashfault. It's always been as-falt to me.
Char-LOTT is where I live now, and yes, it's Char-LOTT.

Yes to: Comfortable, Crayons, Crick, Eaves trough, Fire, Forever, Garage, Groceries, Gran Blank, Hockey, Hundred, I'm going to (along with Supposed To - supposta) kind of, Milk, Michigander, Pontiac, Pop, Realtor, Sherbert, Tuh, Used to, Vanilla, Weekend.

Grand Rapids wasn't Grarrapids. It was more like GranRapids. Drop the D, make it 1 word- that's how I pronounced it.

Davenport- never heard that one in my area.

As for cities, I think it really depends on where you are from- people who don't encounter the city are far more likely to mispronounce it.

Okemos, for instance- a lot of people pronounce it as Okim-oh-s, but it's Okim-us

Anonymous said...

Oh yaahh, it's a "crick", not a "creek." I have plennyuf relaatives who say "stold." Also, so many people I grewup with say, "Couldah went" for "could have gone."
Also, Taahhd goes fer ah waahk, aenthen sleeps ahhn a caahht aeftr rydin home inis caer frm Di-troi. I grew up in the SW corner of MI, just south of Kaelmzoo, in Doe-Wah-Jack (Dowagiac). If yer naahhfrm Dowagiac, I'll know bkz you won't (silent t) prnouns-i-ry (prnouns-i-ry). Aehnif summuns trying tgeh my attenshin, I'll responby sayin "Yo", insteada "yes." Anyone rlate t-this? :-)

Anonymous said...

"awe CLAYERR": Eau Claire (town in Berrien County)
"nEYE-yilz": Niles (2 syllables)
"NOder dAIM": Notre Dame
"round": ronde
"reCEE": receipt
I agree that we leave out a lot more "t" and "g" sounds in the middle or end of a word.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard 'davenport' ever, and I've lived in Michigan my entire life.

Anonymous said...

You're from Detroit. A lot of the rest of us use a good portion of these. My whole county and surrounding counties do, that's for sure. Detroit people have their own accent. Oh and that pronounced Di'TROI.

Anonymous said...

I live in the very middle of the mitten. My town has a sign in the center of the city park which marks the "geographical center of the lower peninsula of Michigan: St. Louis (which is about 20 miles from Central Michigan University). My grandparents always said "davenport." I have always said "couch." It's always been Char-LOTT. I live in Gratiot (GRAH-shut) county, which out-of-staters call "gra-tee-ot." Sigh. In my own experience, people who live in the larger cities speak a little more "proper," although the accent with vowels and lack of the "t" sound seems to be there. I think it's all regional as far as how things are done--and everyone is right. I don't say all the same things as written, but a good bit of it is right on the money. Now if the other 49 States would jump on board! :)

benny4211 said...

I can remember growing up my Dad would say muskeeda instead of mosquito, I've spent my entire life in St. Clair County, lived in Smith's Creek, and yes it came out as crick, I do also from time to time catch myself saying stold, instead of stole. You are right about Detroit though, the last "t" is pronounced, unless you're from the ghetto down there then it's something out of left field. It all depends on what part of the state you're from. I've lived in the Port Huron area my entire life. It's pronounced here on.....not urine. The name came from the Huron tribe that the French traded with when they first started exploring this part of north America. In fact a lot of Michigan words, including the word Michigan it's self originated with the French. Mackinac is French, Detroit is French though it comes out to be day twaa..... Most of our words that are French based were.....some what modified after the French lost most of their North American territories when they lost the French and Indian war. The English being English did their best to pronounce the words but ultimately modified them into we'll, English. Then after the American Revolution when the United States inherited the vast amounts of captured British lands and with the massive influx of immigration and expansion of the American territories can people from other countries of Europe and with them their own dialets of languages into Michigan, we now have our very own accent. How ever the Michigan accent according to research believe it or not is probably the closest American dialets to "proper" English, non Oxford English though, if that makes any sense.

Laura Payne said...

Thank you to all of those who continue to share their "Michigan Accnet" experiences.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in "Gran Rapids" my entire life and "jus recen-ly" moved "outtah" sta(te). People here are always telling me to slow down and use my words because they don't understand my dialect. Maybe BECAUSE you've lived in Detroit your whole life, you just don't hear it like others do. I didn't hear if at first. By the way, I can't say I've ever heard a Michigander pronounce the "T" at the end of Detroit.....

Leah said...

My favorite is when people who arent from southeast metro detroit pronounce Schoenherr road as "Shone-her". lol It's definitely pronounced "Shay-Ner"

Anonymous said...

Um maybe you haven't heard it pronounced those ways cause you're in the east. Many of those words are pronounced that way in west MI. Trust me I'm from there. And about crick -- yeah that's real. And btw the way you say fire sounds odd to me. See?

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